Sunday February 14th, 2016 7:43AM

5 things: What we learned from the first round of football playoffs

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Here's a look at five things we learned from the first week of the high school football playoffs...

1. Region 7-AAA is, in fact, no joke

Before the playoffs started everyone wondered just how good their own region was and how prepared they were for the postseason. In the case of Region 7-AAA, the answers were affirmative for both questions. Everyone knew that 7-AAA's champion was/is great, and Buford dominated perhaps like no other No. 1 seed in the playoffs, allowing just 26 TOTAL yards in their 58-0 defeat of Sonoraville. But a region is judged not by its best team, but by its depth -- so let's look at the three remaining seeds. No. 2 White County also rolled, winning 52-28 over Adairsville. And it wasn't just the final score that told the tale. The Warriors rushed for 470 yards in the win -- rolling with the style of offense that put them in the playoffs. Yet perhaps the most telling feature of Region 7-AAA was the play of its No. 3 and 4 seeds. North Hall and West Hall could easily have made it a 7-AAA sweep -- each losing by a missed field goal in the dying seconds on the road. The Spartans were inches away from the biggest upset of the playoffs, suffering a 28-26 loss at No. 2 Cartersville. North Hall, meanwhile, saw a potential game-winning field goal literally miss by millimeters. It's no concession for either set of fans (there was plenty of HURT to go around on Friday AND Saturday) but they can take solace in the fact that some of the best football in the state is played in Region 7-AAA. And, by the looks of things, that will continue.

2. Dalton Whitfield is among the top 10 players in north Georgia

Anyone who has watched Whitfield over the past two seasons knows that the White County running back/linebacker is a game-changer. But this season, the senior has elevated himself to All-Star territory. It's not that Whitfield is doing anything different per se, it's just that he's been healthy enough to play an entire season. He was on his way to doing something similar last season until a broken jaw sidelined him early (more about that later). And after taking shots from some of the best defenses in Class AAA (in Region 7-AAA), Whitfield found a way to dominate his team's first round playoff game on Friday, rushing for 240 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-28 win -- if you do the math, that's very nearly the difference in the final score. And while Whitfield is a force at running back he may be just as important on defense, where he leads the Warriors with over 150 tackles. Whitfield never really got going against Blessed Trinity -- this week's playoff foe -- earlier this season. And it was against the Titans in their first match-up of last season that Whitfield suffered a broken jaw. If he can stay healthy this time around, Whitfield has the type of skill to make Blessed Trinity worried about their playoff future.

3. Chestatee is just getting better and better

Anyone outside the War Eagles' locker room -- that is honest with themselves anyway -- wondered about Chestatee's effectiveness in 2013 after graduating three explosive pieces and losing another to a season-ending injury. All those questions have been put firmly to rest, however. In fact, even without a recognized "All-Star" on offense, Chestatee has been even better than it was a season ago. For evidence look no further than Friday. The War Eagles stumbled out of the starting gate against a playoff-wise Grady team, falling behind 13-0. Previous Chestatee teams might have panicked -- but not these War Eagles. Chestatee gathered itself and rattled off 41 unanswered points to earn the programs' first ever state playoff victory. And this group -- and it is a group -- will now head on the road with no qualms about pulling off the biggest upset of the Class AAAA playoffs. The War Eagles travel to face No. 1 Sandy Creek this Friday, and Chestatee would be more than happy to keep its playoff run going -- in fact the War Eagle probably aren't even thinking about it in terms of an upset -- just another game to be won.

4. Gainesville is far more than just offense

This is not a revelation to anyone that has watched the Red Elephants over the past few years. Yet those on the outside of the program may be apt to think of Gainesville as an offensive powerhouse that tries to outscore everyone. That is most certainly not the case, and it was proven -- again -- by the Red Elephants' 28-14 first round playoff victory over M.L. King. Gainesville was out-gained by almost 200 yards in the win and yet managed a fairly comfortable victory thanks to a defensive score and a special teams play that set up an easy offensive score. Yes, Deshaun Watson gets a lot of praise, and deservedly so, but the Red Elephants QB, is far from a one-man show -- even on offense. And anyone that underestimates the Big Red defense is in for a shock.

5. Region 7-AAAAAA is, in fact, the best in the entire state

Only two regions in the ENTIRE state swept through the first round of the state playoffs: 7-AAAAAA and 6-AAA. And we would bet Norcross, Collins Hill, North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge would out-fight Blessed Trinity, Woodward Academy, St. Pius X and Cedar Grove. But what do you expect when it takes a coin flip to determine seeds 1-3 in a region as good as 7-AAAAAA? In fact, the region's No. 5 team, Mill Creek, could have been a region champ in a number of other leagues. This region is special indeed, and we believe it's the best in the ENTIRE state. Doubt it? Just watch the final standings in a few weeks.


North Gwinnett 34, Milton 10
Archer 34, North Forsyth 7

Gainesville 28, MLK Jr. 14
Stephenson 27, Flowery Branch 7

Class AAAA
Chestatee 41, Grady 13
Marist 41, Stephens County 13

Class AAA
Blessed Trinity 41, Jackson County 14
Buford 58, Sonoraville 0
Cartersville 28, West Hall 26
Ringgold 55, North Hall 54
White County 52, Adairsville 28

Class AA
Greater Atlanta Christian 34, Rabun County 7
Jefferson 28, Westminster 0
Lovett 56, Union County 21


North Gwinnett at Archer

South Paulding at Gainesville

Class AAAA
Chestatee at Sandy Creek

Class AAA
Woodward Academy at Buford
White County at Blessed Trinity

Class AA
Jefferson at Heard County

Class A Public*
Charlton County at Commerce
*-First round match-up for Class A
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